Before you read this story, rest assured that I have resisted the urge to make any bad puns/metaphors involving buns or baguettes. Sorry or you're welcome, depending on what you're looking for in a good story involving a fine baked goods salesperson.
I have the opening shift on Thursday mornings, which means yanking myself out of bed at 5:15 AM so that I can arrive at work coherent by 7 AM. Yes, I know a lot of people deal with worse as far as early morning shifts go, but let's just all agree that attempting to be a functional human being at 7 AM is a bitch, kay? One of the things I find most disagreeable about waking with the sun is that my digestive system is not yet working, and while I need food for my system to be fully operational, I just can't take it. My solution has been to have my required 2 cups of coffee at home, and then eat breakfast at work when I finally have a functioning stomach. And this is how I came to discover Bakery Boy.
Across the way from my store is a branch of a bakery well known by Philly food snobs. Their bread products are mighty good, though they go a bit overboard with the multigrain thing. Every one of their locations seems to be staffed by cold, hipper-than-thou twenty-somethings, many with excellent tattoos. Half of these are actually some of the most fabulous people you will ever know, if you can crack the chilly exterior; the other half really are dead-eyed hipsters through and through. Originally, I had put Bakery Boy in the latter category. He never smiled, or really showed any affect, for that matter. He could barely muster a nod to anyone at the other stores. During the times when business was slow, he would hide in the back of his store rather than risk making eye contact and establishing communication with anyone else. Honestly, I thought this was a shame, because Bakery Boy looks like a scrawny caveman (in the best way), with a scrubby beard, long, dark locks, and sinewy arms that establish him in my mind as someone who snuggles tightly (thus well) and could hold his own in a brawl. His brown eyes were shielded by thick, acrylic-rimmed black and white glasses, and despite his standoffish manner, I wanted to believe they were not totally soulless behind the lenses.
And, despite everything, Bakery Boy actually proved himself one of the excellent camp at the bakery. The week I began taking the opening shift, I stumbled over to the bakery for a bagel, and found Bakery Boy manning the counter. I reached into my pocket to pay for my plain with cream cheese, but he stopped me, and with a surprisingly sweet smile said, "Don't worry. It's on us." This became a ritual: At the bakery's opening every Thursday, I would blunder over, ask for my bagel, fein the intention of paying, and Bakery Boy would stop me, handing it over for free. Sometimes there would be a "hi, how are you?" involved, too. Sometimes, I would give Bakery Boy fruit in exchange for his generosity. At this point, I need to add that I was not unique in being the recipient of free baked goods; the co-worker I open with also got them when she went over to the bakery as well. But he and I, we had a special ritual, and I was definitely the only one who could coax a smile out of his skinny face.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. The last couple of weeks, Bakery Boy has not been opening; instead, it is a woman, who, while friendly and talkative, does not give me free bagels. She is also not nearly the sight to behold from across my produce and the bakery's sneeze guard that Bakery Boy was, his strong arms staking fresh bread, the rare smile darting over his caveman face when he caught me looking.
7 years ago